Obituaries [April 2011]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:
“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do
lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.”
–William Shakespeare

Fateh Singh Rathore, 79, died on March 1, 2011, two weeks
after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Worldwide Fund
for Nature in recognition of 50 years of work to protect Indian
tigers. The son of a police officer, “Tiger Man” Rathore became a
forest ranger at the Alwar Game Reserve, now Sariska National Park,
circa 1955. In January 1961 Rathore was sent to the nearby Sawai
Madhopur Game Sanctuary to organize a tiger shoot for Queen Elizabeth
II of Great Britain and her husband Prince Philip. This experience

inspired his interest in saving tigers. When then-Indian prime
minister Indira Gandhi founded Project Tiger in 1973, Fateh Singh
Rathore was sent to the scene again as assistant field director for
what is now Ranthambhore National Park. Rathore initiated habitat
restoration to attract tiger prey, including persuading villagers to
relocate outside the area likely to be favored by tigers. About two
years later, in 1975, Rathore finally photographed a tiger and her
cubs. He was promoted to head Ranthombhore in 1977, holding the
post until his retirement in 1996. Foes of his work badly beat him
and left him for dead in 1981, but Rathore returned to physically
confront them. He later formed an organization called Tiger Watch
whose activities include photographically tracking and documenting
the Ranthambhore tiger population, exposing poachers, and finding
other work for the nomadic hunter/gatherers of the Mogya tribe who
have been displaced by tiger habitat protection. A parallel charity,
the Prakrtik Society, begun by Rathore’s son Goverdhan, provides
schooling and medical services to the Mogya. Tiger Watch biologist
Dharmendra Khandal was instrumental in 2003-2004 in showing that the
Indian Forest Department had grossly inflated the numbers of tigers
left in the wild. “The field directors are responsible. They are
not trying. They are too busy showing VIPs around to spend time on
protection,” Rathore told Sunny Sebastian of The Hindu. “The
directors know they are posted for two years and then will go
somewhere else. No one is being punished for tigers who are lost.”

Nitul Dutta, 28, a forest guard at the Mohkhuti forest camp
in Kaziranga National Park, India, was fatally gored by a
rhinoceros on February 6, 2011. Dutta was the fourth Kaziranga
forest guard to be killed in a similar incident in less than three
months. The three previous victims were killed in separate changes
by wild buffalo.

Madhavan, 52, a temporary forest fire line watcher, was
trampled by an elephant on February 13, 2011 in the South Wayanad
Forest Division of Kerala state, India.
Barb Abramo, 68, of West Yellowstone Montana, died on
March 13, 2011, after a five-year struggle with cancer. Born in
Sicily, raised in Brooklyn, Abramo was longtime volunteer office
manager for Buffalo Field Campaign. Abramo “was surrounded by eight
members of her buffalo family” at her death, wrote BFC media and
outreach director Stephany Seay.

JoGayle Howard, DVM, 59, died on March 5, 2011 in
Washington D.C. from a malignant melanoma. Arriving at the National
Zoo in 1980 as a paid intern, Howard became known as “The Sperm
Queen” for her success in using artificial insemination to breed rare
wildlife. Her most prominent accomplishments were with giant pandas,
clouded leopards, and blackfooted ferrets, of whom only 18 were
known to exist, all in captivity, when she began working with
them. Howard helped to breed about 6,500 known descendats of those
18. Earlier blackfooted ferrets had been declared extinct.
Blackfooted ferrets were reintroduced to the wild in 1991 in part due
to her work. Endangered Species Act protection of blackfooted
ferrets also protects prairie dogs, their primary prey, wherever
the ferrets are known to exist.

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker of the British Royal Army
Veterinary Corps “was killed in a firefight with insurgents in
Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on March 1, 2011 as he searched for
explosives with Theo, a 22-month-old bomb-sniffing springer spaniel
mix. The dog suffered a fatal seizure hours later at a British army
base. Military officials won’t go so far as to say Theo died of a
broken heart,” reported Jill Lawless of Associated Press, “but that
may not be far from the truth.” Tasker, a Royal Army dog handler
since 2007, had worked with Theo for six months. Theo, the sixth
British military dog to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001,
had found 14 hidden bombs and concealed weapons caches in six months
together. Tasker’s tour of duty had just been extended for a month
so that they could continue working together.

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